A court in the Indian capital New Delhi has sentenced iconic Kashmiri pro-independence leader Yasin Malik to life imprisonment in “terror” funding case.
Malik, one of Indian-administered Kashmir’s prominent rebel leaders, is the chief of now banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).
Malik, 56, last week was convicted of “terrorist” acts, including illegally raising funds, membership in a terrorist organisation, criminal conspiracy, and sedition.
During the trial, which Malik’s family and lawyers alleged was not fair, the Kashmiri leader rejected the charges and said he was a freedom fighter.
A statement released by the JKLF after Malik’s conviction last week said charges levelled against him were “concocted, fabricated and politically motivated”.
“If seeking aazadi (freedom) is a crime, then I am ready to accept this crime and its consequences,” the statement quoted Malik as telling the judge.
Malik was arrested by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a “terror-funding case” shortly after the JKLF was banned in 2019.
The agency charged him with receiving funds “from Pakistan to carry out terrorist activities and stone-pelting during the Kashmir unrest, especially in 2010 and 2016”.
In August the same year, New Delhi scrapped the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir and unilaterally divided the country’s only Muslim-majority region into two federally controlled territories.
The move was followed by months of military and communications lockdown in the region and arrests of major political and rebel leaders.
Shutdown, anger in valley
In several areas of the disputed region’s main city of Srinagar, shopkeepers downed their shutters before the pronouncement of the sentencing against Malik.
Dozens of women protested at Malik’s home in Maisuma in advance of the verdict, shouting slogans: “Ye tamasha nahi hai, ye maatam sahi hai” (This is not a spectacle, this grief is a reality).
Protests were reported in some areas of Srinagar as security forces in riot gear patrolled the streets.
After the sentencing was announced, Malik’s family members told Al Jazeera they were “shattered but not able to utter a word”.
“He has rested his case with God,” said one of Malik’s relatives, who did not want to be identified fearing reprisals from the government.
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